Code Talker Background

Code Talker Background

Code Talker is a historical fiction novel first published in 2005. It follows the story of a young Navajo boy, Kii Yazhi a.k.a. Ned Begay who is sent to a church school and bullied for his cultural background. During World War II, he is recruited to work for the U.S. military to decifer coded messages sent between American troops.

Through this novel, author Joseph Bruchac seeks to pay tribute to Navajo code talkers and tell the story of their crucial role in World War II, especially in the American military campaigns against the Japanese forces. The contributions of code talkers--Navajos and others--have been erased from or understates in most historical accounts of the war. Bruchac also explores the discrimination faced by 20th century Native Americans not only through his description of Ned's childhood experiences, but his experiences upon returning to his hometown following his period of active service.

Code Talker contains a heavy emphasis on the importance of language. In an interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith, Bruchac said that "what most inspired [him] is that it is a story about the importance of native language and its survival against amazing odds. All the Navajos who became code talkers, using Navajo language in the service of the United States, were sent as children to government boarding schools where they were forbidden to speak anything other than English."

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